Lindsey Graham reveals Covid infection, lauds vaccine

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attends the Senate Judiciary Committee executive business meeting on Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett in Hart Senate Office Building, in Washington, DC, October 15, 2020.

Tom Williams | Pool | Reuters

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday lauded the Covid vaccine after testing positive for the disease, saying that his “symptoms would be far worse” without it.

Graham, 66, said in a tweet that the House physician notified him he tested positive despite being fully-vaccinated. The South Carolina Republican said he begun having flu-like symptoms Saturday night, and that he will be quarantining for 10 days.

While the Senate has not formally issued a mask mandate, Graham was reportedly seen wearing a mask on Monday, according to a Politico reporter.

Graham started to show symptoms when the Senate was in session over the weekend working on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It is unclear whether Graham came in close contact with any other lawmakers in the Senate.

Unconfirmed reports say that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin hosted a small group of senators on his houseboat this weekend, including Graham. CNBC has reached out to Manchin’s office for a comment.

Graham was one of 17 Republican senators who voted to advance the infrastructure plan last week. His absence, or a potential quarantine for other senators, could affect passage of the bill if a final vote is closer.

House Republicans have strongly opposed a renewed mask mandate in their chamber, which has more than four times as many members as the Senate and a larger share of unvaccinated lawmakers.

Graham’s announcement came as the United States contends with a surge of the delta variant of Covid, and as the Biden administration urges more people to get vaccinated.

The CDC on Thursday warned in a confidential document that the Delta variant, which is now the dominant form of the disease in the U.S., is as contagious as chickenpox and has a longer transmission window than the original Covid strain.

Health officials said Covid vaccines prevent more than 90% of severe disease, but may be less effective at preventing infection.

The confidential document, which was reviewed by CNBC, said that 35,000 symptomatic infections are occurring each week among 162 million vaccinated Americans.

Publicly available CDC data states that 5,914 fully vaccinated individuals had been hospitalized or died with Covid infections as of July 19. But health officials have also pointed out that the majority of people hospitalized or killed by Covid are unvaccinated, and that “breakthrough infections” among the vaccinated tend to be milder.

Data from a Monmouth University poll show a partisan split in Covid vaccine hesitancy. 

The survey found 17% of respondents said they were likely opposed to getting the vaccine. Among them, 70% either identify or lean toward the Republican Party, while merely 6% identify with Democrats.

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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